Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

18 posts categorized "National Gathering"

The Story of Bread for the World's Original Musical 'Lazarus'

Lazarus-poster-small-versionBy Sarah Godfrey

In 1986, Rev.  Joel Underwood, then a Bread for the World staffer, decided to take a sabbatical, but wondered how he would fill those months. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and [Bread for the World founder] Art Simon said, ‘Do what you’ve always wanted to do, but never could,’” Underwood recalls. “I said ‘I want to do a musical.’ He said I should write one on hunger and poverty, and I said ‘Well, gee whiz, why not?’”

Underwood says what immediately popped into his mind was the parable about the rich man and the poor man in Luke 16:19-31. 

“When I went home that evening, I went through that passage with the idea to see how many song titles I could create out of that story,” he recalls. He came up with 21 titles, 19 of which would be used for his musical, Lazarus. “It all fell right into place.”

Lazarus was designed to lift up the problem of hunger, and also be fun to perform, Underwood says. The plan worked: after its 1986 premiere at Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre, the piece (written by Underwood, with music arranged by Louise F. Carlson and Sam V. Nickels) would go on to be performed thousands of times across the globe: in the United States, El Salvador, Australia, India, Egypt, and other countries.

At Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, Lazarus will be performed yet again, this time as a completely reworked, updated version of the original. The new Lazarus debuts Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C.

“When Joel left, [Lazarus] went by the wayside, but I still saw potential in it,” says Bishop Don diXon Williams, Bread’s associate of African-American church relationships. “If we are talking about being grounded in God’s love and having different resources and ways to get people to become involved in hunger issues and advocacy, to me nothing reaches out more than the arts, than music.”

Continue reading "The Story of Bread for the World's Original Musical 'Lazarus'" »

A Look Back at 'Lazarus'

Lazarus-poster-small-versionBy Carlos Navarro

"One has risen from the dead, and rich Christians confess this at their table, and yet poor Lazarus, in millions, continues to hunger and to perish from hunger at their door.  The point of this parable is not, as is often suspected, the consoling pipe-dream of heaven for poor Lazarus.  It is addressed exclusively to the rich man.  It is not meant to console the poor with the hope of recompense beyond the grave, but to warn the rich of damnation and to incite them to hear and act in the world."  —Helmut Gollwitzer, from The Rich Christians and Poor Lazarus

I have been involved in Bread for the World for more than 30 years, and some of my best memories include attending a handful of performances of Lazarus, a musical written by Joel Underwood.  Joel served in many capacities at Bread (including as director of church relations), but his musical based on Luke 16: 19-31 is part of the strong legacy he is leaving for our grassroots anti-hunger movement.

My experiences of Lazarus include two very different but powerful interpretations of the musical.  I had the privilege of watching a gospel version of the play performed by a very talented cast at Mount Carmel Church of God in Christ in Kansas City, Kan.  Marie Frasure, who was part of the leadership team for Bread in the Kansas City area during the '80s and '90s and a member of Mount Carmel, was the one who convinced the church's musical director Paul Sims to take on this endeavor.The other adaptation of Lazarus that I attended was  in the Albuquerque area, at Rio Rancho Presbyterian Church.  This was a much smaller, but equally compelling, version. Rev. Kay Huggins, a Bread member and pastor of the church at the time, was the one who brought the play to our community. There have been many other versions of Lazarus performed around the country over the years, including a one-person show by Harriet Harlow Larsen (with accompaniment by Lou Ann Rice).

Balladoflazarus334On June 8, a revival of Lazarus will premiere at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C.  This revival version will kick off Bread for the World's National Gathering this year. This revival version keeps the lyrics of the songs intact, but noted musical director Dr. Bill Cummings added a contemporary touch to the arrangements.

There is good news and bad news regarding the Washington, D.C. performance. The good news is that the show is sold out: While many of those in attendance are Bread for the World members participating in the National Gathering, there are many others from the Washington-Baltimore metro area who will experience this story in words and music. And the bad news is: the show is sold out. But hopefully there will be additional opportunities to see the new Lazarus.

Carlos Navarro has been a Bread member for over 20 years and has led Bread’s presence in New Mexico for the last decade. He maintains the Bread for the World New Mexico website and blog, and serves on the Bread for the World board of directors.

Put On Your Comfortable Shoes and Join Us

Photo: The street sign for Bread for the World's 2011 Lobby Day. (Jim Stipe)

By Christine Melendez Ashley

Wear comfortable shoes. That’s the most practical advice I can give you if you’re planning to join us for Bread for the World’s Lobby Day on Tuesday, June 11.

We’ll be walking the halls of Congress, meeting with senators, representatives, and their staffers—asking them to protect programs vital to hungry and poor people. On the morning of June 11, we will convene at the Mead Center in Washington, D.C., for worship, issue briefings, and practice sessions before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with our members of Congress.

Lobby Day is free, but registration is required. Please let us know today if you'll be able to join us. This allows us time to coordinate meetings with your members of Congress.

We will provide meals, talking points, shuttle transportation to and from congressional office buildings, and a closing service and reception. Comfortable shoes not included.

See you there!

Christine Melendez Ashley is a policy analyst with Bread for the World.


If you are participating in Lobby Day, please join us on Wednesday, May 29, at 3 p.m. ET for our pre-Lobby Day training webinar!

Looking for a Meaningful, Exciting Experience This Summer?

Rebekah Richey of Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Jenny Millkey of Palmetto, Ga., laugh during the opening plenary session of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering. (Rick Reinhard)

By Dr. Alice Walker Duff

Please join us for Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering and have a meaningful and exciting experience. It’s not too late, and you can still receive a special discounted rate if you register by May 31.

This year’s National Gathering, themed “A Place at the Table,” offers the opportunity to worship, learn, take action — and have some fun, too. You’ll attend informative workshops, see the inspirational musical Lazarus, and hear from world-renowned preachers, international development and nutrition experts, and high-ranking government officials and members of Congress.

On June 10, Bread for the World Institute will convene its International Meeting, which will renew the 1,000 Days Call to Action to increase the political will to improve maternal and child nutrition. Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Joe Costello, minister of state at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Trade and Development, will give both give keynote speeches at the meeting.

Kristi Jacobson, one of the directors of A Place at the Table, will participate in a special June 9 session about the documentary, along with three of the people featured in the film—Pastor Bob and Michaelene Wilson of Plateau Valley Assembly of God Church in Colbran, Colo., and Barbie Izquierdo, a hunger activist from Philadelphia, PA.

The renowned Rev. James Forbes, named as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world by Newsweek, and Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., president and CEO of Esperanza, will lead us in powerful praise and prayer.

This dynamic event comes at a crucial time for our advocacy. On June 11, we’ll take our message of ending hunger to Congress during Lobby Day.

Don’t miss this. Join us in setting a place at God’s abundant table for everyone.

Dr. Alice Walker Duff is Bread for the World's managing director.


Register online by May 31 for the special discounted rate of only $210 ($175 for students) at www.bread.org/gathering.

My Journey with Lazarus

Lazarus-poster-small-versionBy Bill Cummings

"Eating's incredible; eating is good," sings Lazarus, the main character in the Bread for the World eponymous musical. "You have to be grateful ... for each tiny plateful ... of life-giving food," continues the hungry man at center stage of this parable.

Bread members and anti-hunger partners will get a chance to see the revival of this tale of food, justice, and redemption at the 2013 National Gathering on June 8, 2013.

Lazarus debuted in 1987 when Joel Underwood, then director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, decided to shine a light on one of Jesus’ fundamental lessons. The story, found in Luke 16, features a rich man, Dives, who refuses to share with a beggar, Lazarus, in life, but finds that he is the one in need in the afterlife. The musical brings Luke's narrative into today’s world—and into places where extreme wealth and poverty rub against each other.

I was given the gift of bringing new arrangements to Lazarus, learning a great deal in the process. I’ve always loved music: when I was young, our family sang in our little Southern church, and I knew every song in our worn-out hymnal. Throughout my life, from elementary through graduate school, God opened doors allowing me to share my music.

In December of last year, my friend Bishop Donald DiXon Williams, associate for African-American Church Relations at Bread for the World, sent me copies of the original musical score of Lazarus. For weeks I studied it with passion. I ate with Lazarus. I slept with Lazarus.

Music has changed since the debut of Lazarus, and I wanted to make sure that the melodic and harmonic structure felt contemporary—from the very first song, "the Ballad of Lazarus," to the last, "Mustard Seed Faith."

When arranging "Hunger and Poverty Blues," I expanded the bluesy melody to make sure that it would appeal to all music lovers. I know that younger listeners might not be as familiar with the blues as those of us who are lightly over 49.

"Brothers Awake" was created in my mind while jogging. A Latin beat kept it going around in my head until I was back home. I’ve learned that if you have a melody inside of you and you want to keep it forever, you had better hurry and write it down.

While the arranging the music was my first concern, this project also opened my heart—giving me deeper understanding of how hunger and poverty unjustly touch some people in our country and in the world. If this new arrangement of Lazarus can change other hearts and bring about an awareness of hunger and poverty in our country and the world, I feel that my journey with Lazarus will have been particularly harmonious.

Dr. Bill Cummings is a renowned musical director and a producer of Lazarus.

The premiere of this new arrangement of Lazarus will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, 2013, in the Kreeger Theater at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C. The performance is open to the public, but you need to secure a general admission pass or ticket online.

Lazarus…The Story Sung Again


By Larry Hollar

As a new Bread for the World staff member in the late '80s, I had the chance to perform in the original cast of a new musical on hunger and poverty called Lazarus. Joel Underwood, who was also on Bread’s staff at the time, had taken the story of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (Luke 16:19-31) and set it to music. He added some twists and turns in the story to challenge people of faith to consider their own responses to the tragedy of hunger in our midst.

Early in my career as a hunger advocate—which has now spanned nearly 30 years—Lazarus gave me a chance to use my musical talents to engage others in the call to justice for hungry people. I was delighted that my then-9-year-old daughter Gillian was also a member of the early cast of the musical, confidently singing a solo as a young girl asking the poignant question, “Where Can I Find Bread?” Later, I had the chance to help stage and perform in this versatile musical in two churches in Arlington, Va., and also sing on the CD of the Spanish-language version, Lázaro. Without question, this musical shaped me in my journey with Bread for the World.

I have come to believe that no movement for social justice can succeed without memorable songs to sustain and enspirit it. Joel’s musical offered singable, engaging songs for the hunger movement of its time. But times change. 

So what a joy it is for me to again be part of a new—and very different—production of Lazarus that premieres in June. An entirely new cast will perform a revamped Lazarus, using Joel’s lyrics but with updated, jazzy music by the talented composer Dr. Bill Cummings. The new Lazarus premieres on Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Mead Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the first day of Bread’s 2013 National Gathering

You will not want to miss this special presentation, a result of the passion of my Bread colleague Don Williams, who had the vision to see Joel Underwood’s original compelling work recast for a modern vocal and instrumental idiom. Look for me in the chorus—and my now grown-up daughter will be there, too.

Bread engages us to lift our voices when we advocate to our nation’s leaders on key policies and programs for hungry people. Let’s again lift our voices—this time in song—to give us heart and a fresh dose of the Spirit as we gather June 8-11 in Washington, D.C.,  for the National Gathering. Join us for Lazarus and much more! For more Gathering details, see http://www.bread.org/gathering.

Larry Hollar is senior regional organizer, eastern hub states, for Bread for the World.

Love a Bargain and Hate to Miss a Deadline?

The second day of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering at American University in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

By Dr. Alice Walker Duff

Do you love a bargain and hate to miss a deadline? Register today for Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering on June 8-11 and save almost 20 percent. The National Gathering will be wonderful.

You'll hear powerful speakers: Rev. Dr. James Forbes, senior pastor emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City, whom Newsweek magazine called one of the top preachers in the English-speaking world, will preach at the Sunday, June 9 worship service. On June 10, Rev. David Beckmann, World Food Prize laureate and president of Bread for the World, will talk about the journey ahead to end hunger. Visit www.bread.org/gathering to learn about the workshops and speakers.

You'll meet powerful people: Barbie Izquierdo and Pastor Bob Wilson and his wife, Michaelene — whom you’ve seen in the documentary A Place at the Table — will meet and greet you after they talk about their experiences with hunger and their calls to advocacy. You can hear from and meet Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., founder and president of Esperanza, whom Time magazine has called one of the world’s most influential evangelicals. Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID, will be a keynote speaker at the international meeting focused on maternal and child nutrition. We will join more than 150 participants at that meeting — at which significant announcements regarding maternal and child nutrition will be made.

You'll witness great things: Enjoy the exciting musical Lazarus, which is based on a message from God. The original music and words are by Joel Underwood, former director of Church Relations at Bread. Bill Cummings has written new music and arrangements—you’ll be singing as you leave the theater. It all takes place at the beautiful Mead Center, home of the award-winning Arena Stage.

You'll do great things: Act on your faith collectively — with others from around the nation — during Lobby Day, June 11, the culmination of the National Gathering.

Register today. Come hear and meet these amazing, inspirational speakers, and join us as we work to set a place at God’s abundant table for everyone.

Dr. Alice Walker Duff is managing director of Bread for the World

Online Registration for the 2013 National Gathering is Now Open

Online registration for Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering is now open! Register today and take advantage of discounted rates (through April).  

Join us in setting a place at God’s abundant table for all people. At Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering (June 8-11, 2013), we will:

  •  Worship with powerful preaching from the Rev. Dr. James Forbes and other prominent pastors
  • Learn through various workshops on key issues, including faithful budget priorities, media and public advocacy, evangelicals in advocacy, and immigration reform
  • Engage with activists, international experts, and policy makers as we discuss maternal and children nutrition and poverty-focused development assistance
  • Act by meeting members of Congress
  • Enjoy the premiere of the lively revival of Lazarus: The Musical

 Register before May 31, 2013 to receive a discounted rate: www.bread.org/gathering. To join the National Gathering conversation on Twitter, please use hashtag #breadrising.

Venue: Mead Center, 1101 Sixth Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024

Stay Connected

Bread for the World